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Family service to expand

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By Marc McLean, local democracy reporter
Family service to expand

A VITAL support service helping families at risk across Dumfries and Galloway is expanding due to the huge demand from struggling parents.

The council’s family support team was set up 18 months ago and became a lifeline service to around 200 vulnerable kids and their families during the height of the pandemic.

The team, made up of social work staff, is now supporting 226 children and 129 families, many of which are dealing with alcohol, drug, and/or mental health issues.

New members of staff are now being recruited following a very difficult first three months of the year.

“The first quarter of 2022 has been a busy and challenging time for the Family Support Service, with an increase in referrals (74 additional) and long-term staff sickness absences due to significant underlying health issues,” stated Stephen Morgan, of the council’s social work department.

Mr Morgan is a senior manager within the children and families section, and he produced a report for next week’s meeting providing an update on the development of the family support team.

He wrote: “Our second senior social worker is now settled in the team which has supported the other senior social worker, the frontline staff and capacity issues.”

The report states that the family support team are following national guidance for positive change, however extra focus is placed on keeping families together and children safe.

Mr Morgan wrote: “If children are living with their family and are safe and feel loved, they should stay there. Their family should be given all the help they need to stay together.

“If they need extra help when things get difficult, they should get it.

“It stresses the need for our teams’ to focus where intensive family support is available to all families so they can have the help they need when they need it with the aim to: keep families together and avoid children going into care, interrupt and address intergenerational cycles of trauma, sustain meaningful and loving relationships.”

The social work report identified a “significant theme” of drug and alcohol problems for many of the families supported.

This has resulted in the family support team receiving additional funding from the region’s alcohol and drug partnership which will pay for two additional team members.

This will help ensure that family support workers can be based in Stewartry and Annandale and Eskdale, which in turn will reduce travelling time and enable the team to respond more easily to families based in these areas.

From the current referrals, 44 families are asking for support with parental mental health challenges. The team are now helping families to become more confident in their parenting and in managing their homes.

They workers also provide support at appointments both for parents and their children, and most importantly help families to develop their support networks within their families, friends and communities.

The council agreed in July 2021 to invest £535,000 per annum over three years to fund the family support team work.